Elephant in the Room –
I was talking with someone earlier this week about a situation he is experiencing. He is forced to make a choice between one thing and another. It’s not a choice he doesn’t want to make. As he belabored the unjustness of the decision, listing the pros and cons, complaining about the consequences of each side of the coin, I asked him a simple question. “What’s the elephant in the room?” He paused and reflected. “What do you mean?” he inquired. “Dig deeper, past the choice and the consequences, what’s the reason you’re having to make this decision?” He was quiet, then took a deep breath and answered. He had clarity. Like a man in a cloudy stream, only when his mind was still, did the water clear.
I once had a co-worker whose personality and mine didn’t click. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. It’s the way it is sometimes. He was in charge of employee evaluations. When we met in his office he read over my “grades” and was surprised they were all high. “I didn’t expect this!” he exclaimed. I sat there thinking; “You didn’t expect this because I’ve never had issues with anyone or any part of this job. The problem is you don’t like me and this colors everything.” We chatted and then I left thankful for my scores but still burdened by the negative relationship.
Wisdom teaches us to make sure we deal with the thing that matters not everything else.
An Example –
Earlier this week I was part of a conversation where someone began being critical of another person. These conversations usually go down hill quickly but instead, the one who was being critical stopped in mid-sentence and said; “I’m going to stop talking. I have a blind spot when it comes to this person. Too often all I see is the negative and that’s not fair to them.”
I admired this person’s self-awareness and self-restraint. Most people would blame the other for their bad mouthing, continue with their complaining until they couldn’t think of anything else deleterious to be said about the other.
Self-awareness is key to personal and community growth. Being cognizant of our own foibles helps us grow in our knowledge of self and gives others an example to follow.
Improving Upon Silence? –
A couple of weeks ago I tried having a conversation with a man who wouldn’t stop yelling. His rant was about everything and nothing. No matter how I tried I couldn’t get him to listen, to move beyond his tantrum and into a dialogue. When his hour was up I wished him well but wasn’t sure the session did anyone, including myself, any good.
Tonight in our Incarcerated Father’s class I spoke to the participants about moving beyond anger and into a productive exchange with others. The steps are; respect for the other, listen to the other, be open to constructive criticism and have the self-awareness to know or hear what needs to change in your life and respond positively.
As I reflected on the lesson I thought about the man from a few weeks ago, my Facebook feed over the last several months, protest marches, inaugurations, and too many other instances where people are yelling, complaining, talking incessantly and rarely, if ever, shutting up.
Silence is in short supply these days. If someone doesn’t stop yacking and start listening soon things are only going to get worse.